China earthquake – one year on

Published: 10th May 2009

More work is needed for everyone to have access to reconstruction and development

Oxfam Hong Kong releases a report marking the first anniversary of the earthquake that devastated western China on 12 May 2008. Although there has been significant improvement in people’s livelihoods, and good work has been done to reduce the risks and impacts of future natural disasters, Oxfam calls for more support for the poorest people who survived.“The challenges to reconstruction are enormous. Many survivors of the disaster still need significant assistance, especially the poorest and the most marginalised people, who tend to be women, children, elderly people, ethnic minority people, and people living in very remote areas. Oxfam’s HK$135 million (USD$ 17.5 million) rehabilitation plan in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi has set a clear priority to assist these people,” said John Sayer, Director General of Oxfam Hong Kong.Sayer continued, “Not everyone surviving the earthquake is recovering as well as others. The opportunity for development should exist equally for all people. Oxfam focuses on very remote villages where assistance has been relatively less, and uses a participatory approach in reconstruction projects, which involves the whole community” “Relief and reconstruction workers have faced a number of challenges, including problems of access, aftershocks, rising construction costs, limited local supplies, damaged roads and bridges, and the complexities of liaising with many agencies and organizations. Yet, within the first two months, 7 new transitional earthquake-resistant schools were built; and within six months, necessary supplies were provided for 125 often very remote communities. Reconstruction work in the first year includes 6 rural roads to improve women’s and men’s livelihoods alike, and provide everyone with opportunities for development. Oxfam thanks our donors and partners, including the various government departments and non-government organizations in mainland China for their support,” Sayer said. Oxfam warns that global climate change is putting additional pressure on people already affected by the May 12th earthquake. Howard Liu, Director of China Unit, Oxfam Hong Kong, stressed, “Survivors in the extremely impoverished and drought-prone areas of Gansu and Shaanxi are particularly vulnerable to the climate crisis. Reconstruction work must address climate change, its tendency to intensify natural disasters, and its impact on people’s livelihoods. Policy advocacy is also necessary. Oxfam is working to make sure that climate change does not offset its 37 reconstruction and poverty alleviation projects in the affected areas.” The agency is the first international development organization to form a partnership with the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. This Memorandum of Understanding, signed in January 2009, enables Oxfam to carry out reconstruction work in 80 of the poorest and most remote communities across three provinces. The agency has 22 years of experience in mainland China.

Reconstruction work must address climate change, its tendency to intensify natural disasters, and its impact on people’s livelihoods.
Howard Liu,
Director of China Unit, Oxfam Hong Kong

Notes to editors